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I had the highest of hopes for this show. It started out so well and the idea was solid. Now that season 2 is almost over, I've lost any enchantment the show had over me. The characters get dumber and dumber. Their actions no longer make any sense and fall so out of line with what any sane person would do in the situations they're put in, that it's almost not watchable any longer. Since I'm a a Lost fan, I'm going to hope the writers start to make these characters more watchable. I'm trying my hardest to stick with this show. But I won't lie, at this point, I don't care if the whole cast of good guys die off. They're too dumb to live.
Don't mean to be harsh here but you need to draw a line in the sand, even if the sand is actually fairy dust and you draw it with a magic wand. Once upon a time (a-ahem) when the world was green and TV was new, there was a hit series called THE FUGITIVE about a man wrongly accused of murder. The show was well-acted, well-produced, well-written. It was a hit. On the final episode after a wonderful run, the real killer was finally caught and the hero was vindicated. But that was not the real ending. The "real" ending was that, with the villain caught, viewers lost interest in watching the series in re-runs, and much income was lost, at least to the producers. And a valuable lesson was learnt -- never resolve any story, if you can avoid it. OK, flash forward a half century. In today's world viewers have somehow become a lot more comfy with paradox and ambiguity and, seemingly, can now watch for hours on end -- literally -- without ever knowing or caring how the story ends. Which is the premise of this show, reduced to the bare bones. Instead of making the fairy tale about the ending, make it about the story. Use quality actors, scripts, production values, knock yourself out. But -- here is the key - like another fairy product from Hollywood, prophetically called THE NEVER-ENDING STORY, just make sure each episode ends with more problems than solutions. If you dig deep through the 100s of IMDb viewer reviews here, you will find others who have noticed the exact same thing. Just when you think an episode is about to resolve, it instead spirals out of control. Clearly, this is not enough to dissuade viewers -- OMG, they have spun off a sister show! -- but for historians of the future, it does raise issues about the attention span of the modern TV watcher. For breaking just about every basic tenet of core narrative fiction, albeit profitably, this show is just plain wrong. I don't expect much agreement, but I need to point out the obvious. And here is a footnote -- you have to wonder aloud if the two Jennifers each initially read for each other's parts. Narrative aside, the show would have been more interesting had the roles been switched.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This series is so jaw-droppingly bad, my mind was boggled by the dribbling accolades of other viewers. Then I saw a review that said something like, "If you were a fan of "Lost" just stay tuned! You'll LOVE it!!!!" (I may have left out a ! or two.) Of course, that reviewer was absolutely right. I've watched maybe a half dozen episodes, and the writers have changed the paradigm at least four times. That is, they used the now-famous "Lost" principle of fantasy writing: if you introduce enough confusing minor side plots, oddly compelling but ultimately pointless minor characters, ersatz "mysteries" and alarming character about-faces that have the main actors alternately weeping for their lost innocence and true loves and then ripping out and eating the raw hearts of infants - well then by gum, this is the show for you! But- and I do absolutely and personally guarantee this- you will NEVER see anything like a real plot resolution, because the writers and producers plan to throw so many complications into the mix that they think, and past experience has shown, that the fans are too dim to remember more than a few of the most glamorous or grisly, so however they end it, no one will care, and few will notice that in any way that matters, the whole thing just stunk on ice.
I'm easily entertained. My ability for suspension of disbelief is
usually good. I'm an open-minded viewer, and tend to find many excuses
for bad choices made by the production/director/actors/writers. It's
not easy to make a perfect show. But in Once Upon A Time's case, it
seems they didn't even TRY to make it good. As a fan of fantasy, myths,
legends, I really really wanted to like it, but the cheesiness was
CONS: Dialogues, directing: a good compilation of clichés, if you're into that.
Story: soap opera meets fairy tales.
Characters: either flat or irritating, or both.
Acting: extreme sadness, despair, fear, inner conflict are indicated by raised eyebrows and watery eyes. Doubt, anger, medium sadness, worry, by a frown. Giancarlo Esposito's character seems to be the only one with actual thoughts and emotions.
PROS: Ruby is agreeable to look at.
If you enjoyed Van Helsing, The Brothers Grimm, even Jim Henson's Storyteller or Shrek, you'll be very disappointed. OUAT could be compared to the 10th Kingdom, without the funny moments.
If you're looking for a mix of old-school Disney and the Bold and the Beautiful, this is for you.
The pilot was intriguing. The concept can seem interesting - nothing
groundbreaking, don't get me wrong, but this is a show in which there's
no gratuitous violence, no sex and bare T&A, and no gore. Strangely
enough, only one of the female characters is a porn star lookalike
wearing remarkably skimpy clothing (Little Red Riding Hood in 4). This
look is, as usual, unnecessary for plot/character development and has
only been inserted to gratify male viewers. Nevertheless, prime time
shows that don't rely on female nudity, blood & guts closeups, the
glorification of violence or all of the above to get attention aren't
exactly common so even without the "fairy tale characters exiled in the
real world" premise (which is nice), at first glance Once Upon A Time
could still vaguely feel somehow different, possibly original. Which it
could have become, except it didn't.
The producers and screenwriters evidently decided that no actual effort was required to make the series successful. As such:
The actors, good as I know some of them are, seem strangely uninvolved - with their characters and with each other. Some of them (like Emma and Prince Charming, to name 2) have been miscast.
The characters feel flat (poor writing you can't expect actors to always be able to undo) so 4 episodes later I still don't care about anyone in particular. That's a problem considering the number of people to choose favorites (or most disliked antagonists) from.
The plots are slow, simplistic and predictable. The dialog ranges from average to mediocre, and I often find myself wondering if someone made a mistake that still hasn't been discovered, as a result of which a children's show (and a poor one at that) is being aired in Once Upon A Time's time slot 4 weeks in a row.
I don't think the potential the series had at the beginning is ever going to unfold - the people in charge clearly decided to rest on whatever laurels they think they possess, walk all over said potential, and settle for a low maintenance time waster. The thing is, they aren't going to waste any more of my time.
I do not think this idea had zero potential. Fairy tales have an
immediate charm that could have served well for an intriguing series.
Unfortunately, it has been squandered by the show's shortcomings. The
first is the writing, which is almost straightforward to a fault. The
dialogue has no snap or charm, with many lines just being mentally
tuned out of my ears. The character are not fleshed out very well and
are only distinguishable by bare bones traits, appearances or the fact
they are a certain fairy tale character. There is also no emotion to
the script, with many of the "sad moments" coming off so limply that
they are clearly artificial.
The show also has a sense of cheapness that could have been a nice artistic touch had it not seemed like it was not intentional. The effects are shoddy, the costumes are store bought, there are apparently a very limited number of sets and it lacks artistry despite its belief that it looks fairy tale like. I think the directing is a huge problem there as to much of the pace and style play it too safe to be interesting. The pilot is a terrific example of the flatness with a terribly handled chase scene with a completely out of place song choice that just ends abruptly. This structure repeats quite often of start and stop.
One of my biggest gripes is the cast. There are some talented actors in the cast (Raphael Sbarge, Robert Carlyle, etc) but they are all mishandled and underused. The crying/emotional moments ring false, the line delivery is flat and overacting from people like Carlyle completely ruins certain scenes. Most of these people just lack charisma or screen presence despite how much the show attempts to manufacture it.
I cannot say it was just terrible, but it was completely dull. I never had a moment of excitement, humor or thrills at any point and I just had a sinking feeling that it would not improve. If it just was not so clumsy blending fantasy and reality, it could have performed better.
So many new shows came out this year, and this is one of the good ones
(along with Homeland and Person of Interest) Its a fantasy show
bringing two time-lines together, an ancient one with magic,
witch-craft and all, and the present one. They keep switching between
the two and its beautiful.
The protagonist is Jennifer Morrison (the girl in the initial House episodes). Here she sheds her normal soft self to a more bad-ass girl.
Ginnifer Goodwin (the youngest wife from the Big Love series), is as usual her sweet self, and looking really beautiful. She is Snow White.
The antagonist is Lana Parrilla as the evil Queen. Never seen her before in a lead role, and of all the cast, she was the best.
I have just seen 2 episodes, so its a little early to give a good opinion. But I would put it up there with Dexter, Fringe, etc.
Give it a try and tell us what you think.
Update after the 9th episode of season 1:
This is sort of a Disney series. Children will love it.
Quality has not been consistent. Some episodes were really good, and others passable. Also a little cheesy and predictable, good cheesy though.
Definitely more enjoyable than say Gossip Girl. So, mostly worth our time.
I have stopped watching this show. After the initial novelty wore off, there was not much to carry it along. There are so many great shows on TV nowadays, this thing just does not match up.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I am a storyteller who's been immersed in folklore, myth and fairy
tales since boyhood. The collected tales of the Brothers Grimm,
Alexandr Afanas'ev and others over the last 2 centuries are the way we
convey the wisdom, beliefs and ethics of the past to the present. That
said, I'm not a purist. The Grimms' tales had been revised many times
to make them comport with the prevailing religions and mores of the
tellers' changing times. I dearly love re-imagined classic material
such as Neil Jordan's The Company of Wolves (1984) or Terry Gilliam's
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988). The only versions of such
tales that I truly despise are the Disney versions. Give me Jean
Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast (1946) any day over the sickly sweet
Disney version. That said, after a weak start, I tried with all my
might to allow Once Upon a Time to grow on me.
I never watched Lost seriously. I found that show more pretentious and self-involved and just confused, never deep. I was always afraid this show would fall prey to similar script problems. Even so I had to give it a try.
That the first episode was weak isn't entirely a fault. The whole hour was exposition. We had to get from the story books to Storybrook before the real action could begin. The second episode actually had good transitions from past to present. I also wanted to be impressed the 3 main lead women.
And though I despise Disney-fication of fairy tales, I must say that turning Jiminy Cricket into a psychiatrist and a possibly corrupt one at that is a stroke of brilliance.
Ginnifer Goodwin's Mary Margaret Blanchard/Snow White isn't much of an actress sadly. She seems to have escaped directly from a senior class play onto the set of this show. I think it was Dorothy Parker who criticized Katherine Hepburn as having an emotional range of from A to B. Ms. Goodwin is much less gifted. Lana Parrilla's Mayor/Wicked Queen struts angrily about the set and snarls when she's not whining. She's neither wicked enough to be a wicked queen nor pathetic enough to gain sympathy. Her tragic back story is just a cliché. Ms. Parrilla needs a script and a verbal dope slap or two from her director if she doesn't give us a richer, more nuanced evil queen yet all she has is horrible, flaccid, clichéd writing. I knew that the show was in trouble when the writers' love affair with psychological; gobbledygook explained Lana Parilla's character as a poor, misunderstood victim of a more evil mother and thwarted love. I think the writers decided that she really does care for Henry and can't be all bad. But a fairy tale must have a focus of evil against whom all other must strive. Making Regina wishy-washy necessitates Barbara Hersey's Cora as the ultimate evil. Even this duplicative mess hasn't taught the scriptwriters a lesson and we're in danger of having Cora excused as an overwhelmed mom just trying to do right by her ingrate daughter.
I like Jennifer Morrison. Her Allison Cameron on House was one of a very few actors who weren't blown off the screen by Hugh Laurie. Her Emma Swan in the initial episode was one of the best things in the hour. However, she has no script worth playing and she's fallen into the trap of lazy actors who rely on standard expressions, mannerisms and deliveries if their directors aren't pushing them or they aren't pushing themselves. Unfortunately the writers haven't given her much with which to work. The crux of her problem is that there's just no chemistry between her and Jared Gilmore's Henry.
I've been a fan of Barbara Hersey's work for decades. Her best hope in this series is for Cora to find a quick death so that she escapes further embarrassment.
As for the men, what is Josh Dallas doing on camera at all? I understand that the show needed a pretty boy for Prince Charming he started the show in a coma and as far as I can see has never come out of it.
Robert Carlyle's Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold grabs the camera the moment he enters and holds it until his but too often descends into a lot of scenery chewing. Still even he can't work from the vast emptiness that passes for a script.
I've kept watching for about 2 and a half years hoping week in and week out that this show would grow into something extraordinary but I've given up. Just because these fairy tale characters are archetypes doesn't give license for them to be as flat as the pages of a story book. Rather it offers the opportunity to show us ourselves through them. The greatness of fairy tales is that they deal in absolutes. There is definite evil. There is definite good. Usually the hero or heroine of the story must make a journey of discovery from which he or she returns wiser, more mature and more powerful. Upon the main character's return he or she is equipped to overcome life's obstacles. There is precious little ambiguity. All clouds hanging over the characters clear and the couple, if there is one, can love "happily ever after" exactly because they have the experience to overcome difficulties that are far more petty than those they have already faced. Once Upon a Time founders about in a sea of ambiguity and bad writing and has just become unwatchable. It is infinitely less interesting than Grimm on NBC which also has far better writing. And it's a lot less go-for-broke exuberant and edgy fun than SyFy's Lost Girl. ABC needs to toll the bell, close the book and snuff the candle to exorcise this turkey from its roster even a second hour of the gawdawful America's Funniest Home Videos would be an improvement.
One of the problem with TV series is that most of the time as the
season advance, the story get more and more confusing. This is the case
with this series as well. It started out okay, even I would say quite
good, but as the story progress, the writer get more and more out of
control. In a make believe story, you can have anything, but let's put
thing is perspective. Adding Mulan (which is the Disney version of
Chinese historical story of the Chinese hero) is the beginning. And
then of course you have to add Robin Hood, Peter Pan, King Arthur and
all sort of characters from any kind of children books. What missing
now is the character from Ramayana, Mahabarata, the Eastern Mythology
and the Greek Myth.
Let's get organize guys, prepare the plot carefully and do not go too much sideways just to extend the season. Season 1 & 2 are okay, but season 3 is getting a bit ridiculous when you put in Peter Pan and give a picture of him as the bad guy. This is really not the idea of Peter Pan for the children....
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The only way I can describe this show is meh. The premise seemed promising but before the end of the first season, it turned into a fairytale soap opera for 12 year olds. Some of the little subplots were entertaining, such as Ruby/Red being the wolf but this only lasted an episode or two. I was torn between clawing out my eyeballs and falling asleep during all of the Snow/Mary Margaret and Prince/David crap, and the whole thing about Regina/Queen and Emma fighting over Henry got old really fast. The one part of the show that was worthwhile was Rumpelstiltskin/Gold. His character was amazing and he was the only reason I watched as much as I did. Overall, it was pretty cheesy and random, but I am giving three stars for Rumpelstiltskin/Gold.
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